Bush Gets CIA Briefing

Saturday, September 2nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — Gov. George W. Bush got a CIA briefing in the seclusion of his ranch retreat on Saturday, calling it an important part of preparing for the White House and adding: ``I've got a good chance to win the election.''

The Republican presidential nominee thanked the Clinton administration — his campaign target on other days — for ``following the tradition of briefing a candidate,'' to help prepare him for office.

In his campaign against Vice President Al Gore, Bush said: ``I feel I'm right where I need to be going into Labor Day...''

Bush said it will be a close contest. ``It's going to be a great race coming down the stretch,'' he said. ``I like the feel of it.''

John E. McLaughlin, acting deputy director of the CIA, and three other intelligence analysts conducted the morning briefing, with Bush and three top campaign advisors. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer said the briefing lasted four hours and Bush ``found it very helpful.''

Bush said his aides, Condoleezza Rice, Paul Wolfowitz and Josh Bolten, had security clearances for the classified briefing. ``My clearance is the clearance from the American people,'' Bush said. ``At least the Republicans.''

The Texas governor leaned against a fence rail outside his house to answer questions from a half-dozen reporters at a photo and talk session in the gathering morning heat. ``It's going to be 105 today,'' Bush said.

The tradition of briefing nominees dates from the 1952 campaign, when Harry S. Truman saw to it that his would-be successors did not come to office as he did, when as vice president he succeeded Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 without knowledge of his own administration's intelligence secrets, even the atomic bomb project.

It has since been standard practice since then for presidents to offer briefings to the major party nominees, as President George Bush did to then Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas in 1992.

Clinton got a lengthy CIA briefing in Little Rock, and his supporters said afterward that he had shown his abilities in foreign policy, an area in which President Bush said he was too inexperienced to take charge.

History repeats; Democrats say that about Gov. Bush now.

Bush said the more information a president has, the better his decisions will be. ``It's an important part of the process, to prepare, obviously, both candidates to assume the highest office in the land,'' Bush said.

The briefers visit the nominees.

When they came to Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis in his Brookline, Mass., living room in 1988, they were late, delayed by a traffic jam at a Boston Red Sox game. He had only an hour for them.

No traffic jams on the way to Crawford, 90 miles from Austin, in the dust of the Texas heat and drought. In this case, had Gov. Bush gone to the briefers' headquarters instead, it would have been at the George Bush Center for Intelligence in Langley, Va., named for his father, the only man to serve as CIA director and later become president.

Bush was spending Saturday and most of Sunday at the ranch, before flying to Chicago Sunday night to resume his presidential campaign on Monday, in Naperville, Ill., and later, Romeo, Mich.

``This is the sprint,'' Bush said. ``This is the time we've all been aiming our energies for.''